postwar plan

The day-after plan for Gaza on Israeli leaders’ desks

A paper circulating in Israeli government offices calls for the total defeat of Hamas, initial Israeli control of the territory and an overhaul of the Palestinian education system — along with a path for Gazan self-rule

Abed Rahim Khatib/Anadolu via Getty Images

Palestinians are seen in Deir Al Balah, Gaza on June 20, 2024.

With continuing pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to present a postwar plan for Gaza, a document has been circulating around the upper echelon of Israel’s government and security establishment.

“From a murderous ideology to a moderate society: transforming and rebuilding Gaza after Hamas” is a 28-page paper, obtained by Jewish Insider, outlining four academics’ recommended dos and don’ts for ensuring Hamas and Gaza are no longer a threat to Israel.

Israeli academics Netta Barak-Corren of Hebrew University, who is currently at Princeton University, Danny Orbach of Hebrew University, Netanel Flamer of Bar-Ilan University and Harel Chorev-Halewa of Tel Aviv University teamed up in November, on a volunteer basis, to combine their expertise in law, military history and the Middle East and compile their recommendations, which they have said all members of Israel’s now-defunct war cabinet read.

According to the document, “Israel’s ability to achieve its goals depends not only on the military and diplomatic campaign taking place these days, but also on its ability to rehabilitate and transform a nation that was led by a murderous ideology, to produce stable institutions and an Arabic culture that does not educate for jihad, a culture that accepts the existence of the State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.”

The paper’s authors analyzed post-World War II Germany and Japan as successful cases, and Iraq and Afghanistan after the U.S. invasions as unsuccessful cases.

The first precondition is the total defeat of Hamas, the paper states.

”If there is no total defeat, there is no point in starting the attempts at deradicalization, rehabilitating systems, building new governing infrastructure and so on. History teaches us that rehabilitation under fire will fail,” the paper states, citing American nation-building attempts in Iraq and Afghanistan while the wars were still ongoing.

As such, they point to three parameters for total defeat: A loss of territory, a loss of sovereignty – meaning no Hezbollah-like situation where Hamas maintains de facto control – and public trials for Hamas leaders and Oct. 7 perpetrators.

The public trials are “critical for the long-term and historic memory in Israel and internationally,” Barak-Corren told the Israeli weekly Makor Rishon, which first reported on the document on Friday, “but also from the perspective of creating a narrative for the Palestinians themselves about what happened because there is a lot of denial.” 

The authors pushed back against the argument that Hamas is an idea that cannot be defeated.

“One cannot totally defeat ideologies,” Barak-Corren said on Dan Senor’s “Call Me Back” podcast, “but ideologies can be either very central or very peripheral. We see the Nazi idea hasn’t passed away – it’s still out there – but it isn’t what it was in World War II.”

While total destruction of Hamas means removing the upper echelons of its governing structure and anyone with blood on his hands, the authors recommend leaving Hamas’ middle management in place to run Gaza. “The ‘technocrats’…who will be willing to accept the new reality will not be harmed and will be rewarded. Whoever resists with force will be severely punished.”

The researchers argue that “the window of opportunity for transformation and rehabilitation is short,” meaning a few years. As such, the work towards changing Gazan society must start immediately after Hamas’ defeat.

This “requires civilian management, and the urgency of the timeline means that we must immediately start planning and establishing an effective and agreed-upon system for managing the Palestinian population in areas under Israeli control,” the paper states. The local governing apparatus in this initial stage would need to build trust with the local population and treat them in a dignified manner, which is necessary for the rehabilitation of Gaza to succeed. The paper suggests partnering with moderate Arab states.

The authors of the paper describe a delicate balance by which “successful transformation requires the creation of a positive horizon for the defeated nation,” while “the option of Israeli military rule must float in the background.” 

Independence of some kind – avoiding the political debates about Palestinian statehood, the paper says only “an autonomous Palestinian entity” – would come only when concrete and measurable goals are met, including education for peace, distancing itself from violence and terror and effective governance. 

However, if Israel makes clear that it will leave Gaza at some point regardless of its progress — similar to the U.S. setting a date to leave Afghanistan — Gazans will have less of an incentive to come up with an alternative to Hamas. As such, the goals Gazans need to meet must not have a rigid schedule attached to them.

Physical rehabilitation of Gaza is not enough; the paper calls to build its spirit as well by “eradicating jihadist ambitions” through overhauling the education, religion and media systems, including reforming the schools’ curriculum. 

This would include “purifying the education system” of extremist educators and current textbooks, and establishing bodies to supervise school content and media to ensure they do not include radical content.

In that vein, the authors call to “take advantage of the acts of rebuilding to push UNRWA out of the [Gaza] Strip,” referring to the embattled U.N. body responsible for aid to Palestinians. According to Makor Rishon, they were told by the IDF higher brass that this is unrealistic.

The new narrative created for the Palestinians in Gaza would “lean on Sunni Muslim Arab tradition … in its moderate versions in education and culture and grant the Palestinians a concrete, positive vision to latch onto for demilitarized Palestinian self-rule at the end of the process.”

“It would be very bad for Israel to do that directly,” Barak-Corren said on Senor’s podcast, and suggested that the UAE, Saudi Arabia or Egypt be involved.

The paper discourages Israel’s leadership from setting a goal of democratization for Gaza, saying that this is “a move that has failed in every place it was tried in the Arab world. The goal should not be turning Gaza into a Western democracy, but an Arab-Muslim entity that is moderate and not jihadist.”

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